March 10, 2006 -- It appears that the survivors of Hurricane Katrina are victims -- again. Federal disaster aid has gone unclaimed for more than six months since lawmakers approved it, The Associated Press reported.
Congress approved a $2 billion program in September to help displaced families get back on their feet after the Gulf Coast storm but it's still sitting there.
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According to the Health and Human Services Department, only 11 states have made requests totaling $25.5 million in aid so far. Even though Katrina survivors qualified for the relief aid regardless of income, some states said they didn't know if some displaced families qualified for the funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, AP reported.
"The funds are there, and it's deeply troubling they're not being used," said Mark Greenberg, executive director of the Task Force on Poverty at the Washington-based Center for American Progress.
"These funds could be used right now to help families in tremendous need."
Just how many families are missing out on the funds is unknown. And some states say they'd rather provide assistance out of their own pockets to avoid the bureaucratic hassle, while in other cases families with higher incomes who are eligible aren't seeking the aid.
According to HHS, about 420,000 families were displaced by the Gulf Coast hurricanes. About 50,000 were low-income families who generally aren't eligible because they were already receiving TANF aid before Katrina hit.
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